Ten Lies Enablers Tell Themselves

I have been where you are.  I understand the confusion and chaos you live with. 

 I have told myself all of the same things you tell yourself, the rationalizations you use to justify the insanity of an unsafe relationship. 

 I have also found freedom.  I have discovered the truth.  I want to you discover the same. 

Sometimes it takes a little jolt to get us out of our dysfunctional mindset so that we can renew our strength and find the determination we need to break the cycle.

 Have these thoughts crossed your mind? 

Lie #1:  This must be normal.

You assume that your relationship is typical of most relationships.  Even though you are hurting constantly, strategizing ways to get him to hear or understand you, trying to prove you are worth loving, you tell yourself that it’s a misunderstanding, a phase or he’s just going through a hard time.

Fear, anxiety, confusion, isolation, diminishment, sarcasm, manipulation, name-calling, shame and blame are not the automatic responses of someone who is just having a bad day.  Doesn’t it seem illogical for a man to attack his greatest ally, his best friend, his mate?  It should, because it is.

You believe that if you try harder, the abuser will come to appreciate you.  In truth, the more he abuses, the harder you try.  That’s what he appreciates.

 Lie #2:  He’ll change.

Then why hasn’t he?

Why do you believe he will change now or at sometime in the future?  Because you love him?  Because you’re so patient with him?  Because he doesn’t mean it?  Because he’s said, “I’m so sorry.  It won’t happen again”?  You believe it because believing that he knows what he’s doing and he doesn’t care is too scary.

In truth, you have stayed with him in spite of the fact that he is abusing you; therefore, the message he is receiving is that you really don’t have a problem with it.  You are reinforcing that what he’s doing is acceptable.

Where is the incentive for him to change?  You’re doing the same things you’ve always done; why shouldn’t he?

If he wants to change, why doesn’t he?

If he won’t change, then you must.

Lie #3:  I Need to Protect Him.

Abuse is nurtured and fed by your silence.  Part of the abuser’s power is in your willingness to keep his secrets.  Stop keeping them.

Instead of protecting him, start protecting yourself.

Lie #4:  It’s My Fault.

So, you are willing to believe your actions determine the way he responds to you.  You pushed his button or hit the trigger that set him off.

Do you really hold that much power over his choices or behavior?  If that is so, then why don’t you have the power to keep him from abusing you?

You have no power over him, and you never will.

You do, however, have power over what you will do.

What will you do?

Lie #5:  He Really Loves Me.

Real love operates 24 hours a day.  It doesn’t come and go with the tides, change with the time of day or vaporize because someone has had a bad day.

Abuse is never a function of a normal, healthy relationship.  Abuse and love do not occur in the same relationship.

An abuser wants you.  Just because someone wants you does not mean he loves you.  I know that is very difficult to accept.

But try not to confuse the two.  Just because he may not love you does not mean you are not worth loving.  You are.

Lie #6:  I Just Need to Explain Things to Him.

Words are just words to an abuser.  He can listen to you and not hear anything.  You can talk all you want, but until you are willing to do something, nothing will change.

You’ve already talked to him before, right?  Has it made any difference?

You keep talking, he keeps abusing, you keep trying harder, and nothing changes – for the abuser or for you.

Stop trying to figure out what words will work.  The best word you can use is, “Stop.”

If that word doesn’t work, what words will?

Lie #7:  He Says He’s Sorry; He’s Trying.

Anyone can say that they’re sorry.  Real sorrow brings real change.

You may latch on to the slightest effort on his part and believe it is the beginning of real change.  But, there is a monumental difference between compliance and change.

Compliance is giving you the bare minimum.  The abuser may get as close to the line of offense you have declared without crossing over, or begrudgingly give you a measure of what you need.

Change is reversing course as a result of acknowledging the truth and doing everything possible (as opposed to as little as possible), to save the relationship and make it a safe, healthy place to be.

Compliance will likely be temporary.  The abuser will incrementally attempt to move the line and accuse you of being unreasonable if you contest.

Compliance isn’t change.  Without heartfelt change, it’s probably only a matter of time until you are right back where you started.

Lie #8:  I Can Save Him.

No, you can’t.  The idea that you can save him is enabling at its highest (or lowest) point of insanity.

Enabling is taking responsibility for the actions of another person.  Enabling overlooks the abuser’s flaws, forgives him, and lives in an unbelievable state of denial about the abuse that is taking place.

Enabling is not noble.  Once you know that you are living with abuse and you allow it to continue, you are both a victim and an accomplice.  You are unwittingly supporting, even encouraging, his behavior by failing to call it what it is and putting a stop to it.  Even if you can convince yourself that he doesn’t know what he’s doing; you do.

The abuser chooses how to treat you.  You can only choose how you respond – whether to accept that treatment as normal or reject it and demand better.

You can’t save him.  You can only save yourself.  And if it becomes apparent that you must, you should.

Lie #9:  He Needs Me.

Does he need you because you make his meals, clean his house, listen to his griping, sleep with him?  Are you the only one who would put up with him?

And what do you get out of the relationship?  Are you getting what you need, or are you still waiting for him to treat you like you dream of being treated?

Have your dreams been replaced with a hefty dose of heartache?  Grief?  Loneliness?  Feelings of inadequacy?   Is that a relationship, or something more akin to bondage?

Know that, if the day comes that you need to leave for your own sanity, he will survive.  Abusers always do.  They’re generally too selfish to let anything get in their way of themselves.   You will survive, too, as long as you hold tight to the truth that you don’t deserve to be abused.

Lie #10:  I Probably Deserve It.

Do children deserve to be abused?  Do animals deserve to be abused?  Of course not.

So, why you?  The “I probably deserve it” lie is what we use to convince ourselves that the abuser has a mysterious (yet justified) reason for the way he treats us.  No, you’re not perfect; either is he.  But I’m guessing he wouldn’t accept from you one-tenth of what he dishes out.

There’s no good reason he could possibly offer or that you could possibly conjure up to justify abuse.  In your heart, you already know that.

Dear friend, if you discover that you have been living in an abusive relationship, get help.  There are countless resources available.  Reach out, tell the secrets, build a support network.  Begin now.

Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved


14 thoughts on “Ten Lies Enablers Tell Themselves”

  1. woooww!! so true, as women we love to lie to ourselves when we are in such situations, and the longer we stay, the worse the lies get and we actually start to believe the lies..

  2. Hits the nail right on the head! I did all of these and more in my relationship! Getting out was the best thing I’ve ever done for me and our daughter, though it’s not always easy! Recently he has threatened to cut off her long beautiful hair. For spite, I’m sure. If you’re not sure how ugly these people can get, you’ll see. 🙁 But it’s well worth it to get out. Best wishes!!!

  3. I didn’t know this was abuse. I wasn’t able to see my family or friends without grief. I have been the only one working for a while. I was going to work or coming home, or procuring things for the home, or things for him. Nothing was for me. He would rather spend time with our pets than touch me, and yet he needed to be touched and told how great he was. Nothing was left over for me. He abuses drugs, and I do not. I thought: if I buy him his drugs, and things he likes, he’ll appreciate me. For years, I kept this thought process up. One day, I was left alone, while he was out looking for a job. I watched a show that I was not allowed to watch, and it clicked. Narcissist. X accused y of being a narcissist on this program, and I had to do some research. It was like reading about my boyfriend. I started weeping. I started to realize that I was living with someone who did not love me. He could say the words, but they never had any meaning. Verba non facta! I was stunned. I kept a close watch on him, and kept my distance, and realized that this wasn’t the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. This person did not love me. He does not need me. I cannot save him. I have not loved myself in years. I have not laughed a full laugh. I have been fraught with worry and guilt over things that I not only did not do wrong, but things that I could not ever possibly do right. I thought I could never be enough for him, but it turns out that he is not enough for me. Reading this article and others stops me from crying, and helps me to understand that it will get better. I need to be the one to stand up, and turn my life around. Thank you for being strong enough to stand up when you are being put down! Thank you for helping me believe that I can do the same!

    1. Hello, Heidi.

      I know how hard this is, how deeply it hurts. But, I also commend you for being receptive to the truth, for allowing your eyes to be opened to the truth about the kind of man you are living with and realizing that you deserve better and you CAN reclaim your value and your life.

      You are not alone. Many like you and me have found their way to freedom and restoration. Yes, it is possible, and I pray you begin now. Watch for the game-playing that often begins when you attempt to leave. Please read, “Leaving An Abuser: What to Expect and How to Stay Grounded,” and “Checklist Blackmail.” Don’t buy in. Don’t believe it. Just get away and let time and distance provide the clarity and validation you need.

      Let me know how I may be able to help or direct you.


  4. I have been in a very abusive relationship for the past 12+ years. When I originally met him, he was charming, sociable, and affectionate. Shortly after meeting him, he was calling my landline 10 time consecutively, if I didn’t answer on the first call. Then, he demanded I answer my phone on the first ring, otherwise, he would swear at me and be accusatory. I moved him with him because I thought it would give him a sense of security. He didn’t want me seeing my friends because he didn’t trust them. He needed my email password and I gave it to him, since I held no secrets. He started blaming me for losing his kids and that his ex wife bribed the kids not to see him. I left his house and we broke up for a year and a half. However, I kept seeing him, on his terms. I cried and told him how much he was controlling. He was remorseful. I went back to live with him, and over the next 6 years, his abuse became worse. He swore at me, I couldn’t have any opinions or express my feelings, which he considered as complaints, and he wrote it on his calendar every month he felt I complained. I was afraid of him; I had to choose the right words when speaking to him, otherwise, he would get mad. Sometimes, it took me weeks to figure out how to approach him on something. He was very secret about his personal life. I was walking on eggshells. He would get mad at me and just punish me. He isolated me, he gave me the silent treatment for weeks or months at a time, then he would turn around and twist the scenario and blamed me for the silent treatment. He would give me dirty looks, he would tell me something then deny he said it, and play horrible mind games with me. I believed him, I was confused, he broke me down to an empty shell; I thought ‘if only I didn’t complain, if only I didn’t get him mad, he would love me again.’ Nothing I seem to do was right and I was always at fault. My spirit died, I was totally under his control, I thought I was bad and his punishment was justifiable. Finally, because I felt so very disregarded and unloved, I moved out. I left quietly while he was out of the house. It is a difficult struggle as I feel lonely, lost and depressed, even suicidal at times. It has only been a little over a month since I left. I pray that I can survive this. I am in therapy and in a womens support group for abuse, and trying to understand all this and to gain my self worth and identity back. The only thing I know is, I left he abuse when I left him, but now need to recover from this devastating treatment.

    1. Hello, Alison.

      I am glad that you found the website. It is clear that you have been through a lot, given the relationship everything you had – to your own detriment. I know it is devastating to realize that you are in an abusive relationship, but know that coming to that understanding is the beginning of recovery, of healing, of restoration, and a new life.

      You are not alone. You are welcome to write to me, and I encourage you to peruse the articles and resources we have available here. I also offer phone consultations for a fee, if you are interested. We have posted two reviews from women who have used the consultation service I provide.

      Just week walking, Alison. I urge you to be careful not to get drawn back in to that relationship. The odds are good he will try to get you back for his own selfish purposes. Be strong.

      You are welcome to write as you have need.


  5. I was four or five when our next-door-neighbour (today a retired pro hockey player) lured my sister and I into some brush in the golf course behind our houses, where a dozen boys or more emerged out of hiding, forming a circle around my sister, then dropping their pants in unison at the cue of the oldest boy.

    I remember lying on the ground, somehow made naked, with him overtop of me and boys all around, gawking. I remember the dead leaves around my head like a pillow, their scent and sound as my body was moved a reassuring comfort: they were my witnesses. I remember hearing my sister, held several feet away, trying to scream or cry out and not even being able to get her breath. I remember everything completely coming undone inside and crying like a baby, for her, for myself, for our lack of a rescuer/protector and defender.

    I remember standing in the middle of the circle again, jamming my feet through the leg-holes of my panties and missing, I was shaking so violently and uncontrollably.

    I remember telling our Mom, her face going white, her words to never talk about it again, her ushering us back outside to play, the world being an alien place, us banished, never to have a home again.

    I remember my sister turning on me within the year. I have been alone ever since.

    I was sexually abused several times after that by various and sundry guys. I travelled with a group abroad and was drugged and ____________ by the dad of the host family – for an entire week. I had to stay for two months afterward and endure his leering, jokes and mocking of me (of sexual activity and innuendo – things I didn’t know of or comprehend at the time).

    I’ve survived almost six decades and four downright evil relationships – I won’t even go into my parent’s relationship; one a decade with a rapist and almost two decades “dating” an intelligent, crafty man expert in contract and insurance law.

    I am now terrified to trust my judgment or a man’s kindness. I never thought, for all my reading and learning and crying and near-death walks that I would still be in the same place.

    Am I cursed? Did I condemn my ex-husband and now ex-bf to destruction, even further away from love? Love never fails … Love endures ALL things! Love conquers all …

    1. Dear friend.

      I cannot begin to tell you how very sorry I am for all that you have endured over the years at the hands of evil men and their willing accomplices. Dear woman, you are not alone, and you are surely not cursed. If anyone stands condemned among those who have harmed you, it will be their own doing, not yours. Those evil people chose to sin or to provide a cover for sin, and they may choose to repent and find forgiveness. That is not your responsibility, but theirs.

      The courage to attempt to love again is admirable even if some have exploited your desire for genuine love, again, for their selfish gain.

      If I can be so bold, I would simply encourage you to step away from men for a time, to grieve what has been taken from you, to remember who you are and become the woman you want to be apart from anyone else. Our gracious Father-God will meet you where you are, and He is enough. He longs to pour into you His grace and strength and newness of life. I know that even a father figure may seem threatening. But, He is the ultimate father, who will pull you into His lap and hold you in His arms and allow you to pour out your heart to Him in sweet release and give you comfort.

      Your love did not fail. It was exploited. When the Word says that love endures all things, I take it to mean that a mutual love can endure anything, not that you are obligated to endure torment and continue to love someone. Love will ultimately conquer evil and the grave, as our Lord has proven. But that is for another day of His choosing.

      For now, I pray that you will take the time you need to heal and come to appreciate how very precious and valuable you are. In time, you will learn how to trust your instincts once again, how to identify the red or yellow flags that remind us when to back away when it comes to relationships and to wait for one who will cherish you and prize you and love you well. You deserve nothing less.

      Again, I am very sorry for all you have been through. I know that God’s mercies are new every morning. Realize that He does not want your history to become your identity but rather your testimony. I truly believe that.

      Thank you for taking the time to share. You are welcome to write or visit any time.

      In Him,


  6. Cindi, I have been struggling for months about whether my marriage is healthy or not. I have only been married for 2 years and am pregnant with our second child. This is my second marriage to an abuser. I am 34 now and sometimes wish I could turn back time to recover my life that he has systematically destroyed.
    In just 2 years I have lost EVERYTHING I had before him. When we met I had full custody of my 11 year old son. I lived in a cute affordable apartment, worked a great job in insurance and held a part time second job for extra money.
    My son was my whole world and everything I did was for him. But when I met my now husband he swept me off my feet and we were married within 2 months.
    Since then, I lost my son to my parents because of my husband’s angry outbursts. They feared for his safety. So I let him go to safety while I tried to fix my new marriage.
    In this brief time period I have lost my apartment, cars, freedom, credit, job, son, family, friends and self worth.
    Until i found your website I was starting to think that I was the cause of it all. My husband contends that everything that has happened has been either the fault of my family or my mouth telling his secrets. He tells me I am selfish to want to have freedom and a relationship with my child who is 13 now. I am not allowed to leave the house unless he approves first. I am not allowed to have friends or money of my own.
    When we argue he tells me that he will quit his job since he doesn’t want to provide for an ungrateful wife.
    When our 8 month old daughter was born he was so jealous of her that he would keep me from going to her when she cried because he said she needed to “get over it”.
    I left him when she was 3 weeks old because of his abusive demeanor toward her (oddly I didn’t do it for me). But his family convinced me to let him back into my life because of our daughter.
    At the time we didn’t attend a church (something I had cherished doing for years), and he drank almost daily. So he promised to quit drinking and start going to church.
    We still attend church some and he has slowly backpeddled to drinking at least once a week and I actually told myself he would be happier if I just let him do it.
    So I know its a crazy GOD thing that i stumbled onto this website. Just yesterday I was trying to think of practical ways to commit suicide without leaving my daughter alone with him! I have been so depressed for so long that I truly believed I was going crazy. Every time I think I can leave him he does something nice for me or our daughter.
    He tells me that if I could just be a better more submissive wife he would trust me. (like im the one who cant be trusted!!!)
    If I stay to myself our life seems normal and I can cope. But if I read about abuse or tell someone else what is bothering me, then I see that it isn’t normal nor should I accept it.
    Just yesterday my husband put a tracker app on my phone to make sure that I am where he thinks I should be. It also traces text and calls so he knows who I talk to.
    I am reading everything on your site and it seems that 3 of 4 things in every subject apply to us.
    Now I just need a plan to escape.
    Since i have left before he is wise to my methods and moods. He makes sure I don’t have extra money and that my avenues are cut off.
    We live in an RV now 2 states away from anyone we know with a baby and one on the way. My hope has done nothing but die along with my dreams since we were wed. How do I start again with nothing and now with 2 kids??!! I wish I could turn back time and take back the life I had before!!!! But that life seems too far gone.
    What do I do now to piece my life together?

    1. Hello, Ashley.

      I am horrified to read what has happened to you. Yes, what you are living in is unequivocally abusive. Your husband’s exertion of absolute control and isolation are powerful tactics designed to keep you bound to him.

      Nevertheless, there are always options. For you the challenge will be communicating with other people. Perhaps you have a friend or a neighbor who will give you access to a computer or a phone to communicate with others you know who may be in a position to help you. I would also urge you to contact local law enforcement, explain your situation and ask for help and advice. You might also want to contact some local churches and ask for help. You need a safe place for yourself and your children. I also have a contact in another organization who might have some recommendations. If you can provide me with your location, that would be helpful. Furthermore, I’m not sure how your husband would respond, but I might recommend that you have that tracking device removed from your phone. He has no right to do that to you. But I don’t want you to risk your physical safety, either… Be wise.

      Please keep me informed, and I will find out what I can on my end.

      (Other participants here – perhaps you have some other suggestions for our friend in need…)


  7. Dear Cindy, I just want to thank you for the insightful articles that you wrote, they are extremely helpful, and open the eyes of lots of abused women. I especially like your bold advice that once we realize that we are abused, we should consider separation. So many online resources keep feeding the lies we tell ourselves that we just have to try a little harder, we need to wait a little longer, we just need couples therapy…much advice consider couple’s therapy as some sort of magic that has the power to change an abuser’s personality. I went with my husband to couple’s therapy and after a few sessions I realized that he liked it so much because the therapist hold both of us equally responsible for his violent outbursts saying that my behavior triggered his behavior (which he always told me), and the therapist never ever labelled him as “abusive”. I left after a short marriage when my husband added threats, intimidation to his earlier arsenal of guilt trips, blackmailing, silence treatments. At that point, I realized that I was afraid of him. I grew up with decades of domestic violence and two abusive parents, and as a child, I promised myself that I will never let a man treat me like my father (who I’m still afraid of) treated us. Unfortunately, I’m attracted to abusive men like a magnet but I hope I will make healthier choices for myself in the future, with the help of your dating advice. I’m working on rebuilding my life now and sometimes I become sad thinking about the good times with my husband, but then I read your blog and remind myself what a big price I had to pay for those very few good times. God bless you, Teresa

    1. Hello, Teresa.

      I am so glad that you have found the validation and truth that you need to break free of the cycle of abuse and begin your journey toward a new, healthier, abuse-free life.

      Truly, as you shared, couples counseling runs completely counter to the reality of abuse and actually enables the abuser. Your experience is absolutely consistent with what so many of us have also endured. I began writing a piece on couples counseling, thinking I would have a 2-3 page blog piece, but as I have explored the dynamic and the principles that undergird it, I have been horrified by the depth of deception that permeates the entire premise of couples/marriage counseling where abuse is involved. It is a multi-faceted horror. I appreciate that you shared your own experience in that. When I finish my expose, I think it will have to be broken down into several different articles…

      I hope you take all the time you need to learn from your past and reclaim your life. You deserve to be loved!

      Again, thank you for taking the time to share.


  8. Teresa, and others who feel they keep ending up with abusive men over and over again, please check out the book The Human Magnet Syndrome by Ross Rosenberg. The author also has a YouTube channel and he explains so clearly why this happens and how to change it. I am still reading it and learning a lot about myself and I am determined to change so this doesn’t happen to me again.

    1. Hello, Danielle. Thank you for the recommendation! I appreciate your input and will check the information out, too.

      It seems you are well on your way to a place where you know better how to take care of yourself and say ‘no’ to people who are toxic or unhealthy for you. It’s okay to learn the hard way as long as we learn! I know – I’ve been there…

      Again, thank you for writing to share.

      Feel free to write anytime.



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